Name That Dictator

In the 1980s, the U.S. squared off against Moammar Qaddafi. In the 1990s, the new enemy is Saddam Hussein — but it seems little is different except the names.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


If you saw the United States’ December bombing of Iraq as anything other than a suspiciously timed counteraction to the House impeachment hearings, you might have wondered why the military scenario seemed so familiar.

Compare
AP/Wide World Photos

In fact, American tilting at Saddam Hussein in the 1990s is remarkably similar to U.S. tussles in the 1980s with Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi.

But it’s not as though the State Department has a bogeyman-of-the-decade form that it fills out every 10 years — or is it? Sometimes, we’re not so sure.

Dictator straddling strategic waterway? Check. Gushes oil and World War I-era chemical weapons? Check. Attacks neighbors? Check. Talks pan-Arab unity when chips are down? Check. Resists sanctions? Check, check, check.

Read the parallel stories on the following pages. With only the dates and proper names masked (Country X for Libya or Iraq; the President for Reagan, Bush, or Clinton; the Dictator for Hussein or Qaddafi; and so on), can you tell which stories are about Libya and which are about Iraq?

Hand-wringing by European allies? Check. Top Gun-ish air battles between our creaky F-14s and their creaky MiGs? Check. …

 

He’s used gas before …

“It’s dangerous for the entire region, and for the entire world, you could say,” said the State Department spokesman, citing “the Dictator’s regime’s support for terrorism.”

“There are reports that Country X has already used a weapon of mass destruction — chemical weapons — in combat,” said the spokesman, referring to allegations that Country X used chemical weapons while invading a neighboring country several years ago. (Chicago Tribune)


 

The Dictator could still spread toxic agents on at least a limited scale, using low-tech devices such as agricultural sprayers, aerosol dispensers, fog generators or terrorist “suitcase bombs,” U.S. officials say. …

U.S. officials and outside experts predict that the Dictator will soon once again develop the ability to deliver the toxic agents over long distances and with even greater deadly power — on the tips of missiles.

“We’re talking about — and I use the term advisedly — a diabolical effort,” said a senior U.S. official. (Los Angeles Times)

Which is Libya and which is Iraq?

Get the answer — and the next scenario.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate